Faculty & Facilities

Our faculty and mentors work closely with students in the generous studios and critique spaces that are the homebase of the program.

Sharita Towne

Chair of MFA Visual Studies

Sharita Towne is a multidisciplinary artist and educator based in Portland, OR. Born and raised on the West Coast of the U.S. along Interstate 5 from Salem, OR, to Tacoma, WA and down to Sacramento, CA, Sharita is a true granddaughter of the great migration. She is most interested in engaging local and global Black geographies, histories, and possibilities. She is also known as “Mariah Carrie Mae Weems,” one-fourth of the post-colonial conceptual karaoke band Weird Allan Kaprow. Sharita holds a BA from UC Berkeley in Interdisciplinary Studies & Art, a MFA from Portland State University in Contemporary Art Practices, and taught at Pacific Northwest College of Art in Video and Sound, Thesis, Intermedia, and Critical Studies, prior to becoming Program Head of the college’s MFA in Visual Studies.

As an artist, Sharita’s interests lie in unpacking inherited struggles, understanding the mold they imprint on our present selves, and affording collective catharsis. Her form shifts constantly, moving from printmaking to video to site-specific projection to community conversation and more, but the values of family and survival persist throughout her work. The spaces are also ever-changing, ranging from museums and neighborhoods to refugee camps and family backyards. While form and space are constantly shifting for Sharita, a shared art penetrates her work and binds people together - in collective catharsis, grief, and joy. Sharita’s work has received support from organizations like Creative Capital, the Fulbright Association, Art Matters, The Ford Family Foundation, Oregon Community Foundation, Oregon Arts Commission, The Miller Foundation, the Regional Arts and Culture Council, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Open Signal, SPACES in Cleveland, and the Independent Publishing Resource Center in Portland. She is a 2020 MRG Lilla Jewel Award recipient, and was interviewed in the New York Times this year about her ongoing work on “A Black Art Ecology of Portland”, a cross-sector project that considers the city as form.

Faculty

Mentorship

Mentor Student Relationship

The mentor-student relationship is personal and unique and is at the heart of the MFA in Visual Studies Program. The role of the mentor requires more than just teaching; the mentor also acts as an advocate, critic and colleague for the MFA candidate. This mentor-based experience should encourage a self-designed, independent inquiry while supporting the individual candidate’s needs. The program will connect the student with a mentor who directly

identifies with the candidate’s focus from the wider network of the Portland arts community and PNCA faculty. This one-on-one relationship makes use of the knowledge transfer from mentor to student and creates a supportive environment for the candidate to conduct original research and develop new ideas.

Mentors we work with:

WENDY REDSTAR, KRISTAN KENNEDY, YAEL AMIR, ERIN BOBERG, RALPH PUGAY, MODOU DIENG, SHARITA TOWNE, DEREK FRANKLIN, GARRICK IMATANI, JESSIE MEJIA, JODIE CAVALIER, NAN CURTIS, STORM THARP

KEYON GASKIN, PETER SIMENSKY, LAURA HUGHES, MK GUTH, VICTOR MALDONADO, BOBBI WOODS, ZACHARY RAU, LINDA WYSONG, EVAN LALONDE, AERON BERGMAN, ALEJANDRA SALINAS, MICHAEL LAZARUS

EMILY GINSBURG, SAMANTHA WALL, RACHEL WOLF, RYAN PIERCE, CRYSTAL SCHENCK, DANIELA MOLNAR, ELIZABETH MALASKA, JOEL FISCHER, ROY TOMLINSON, TERESA CHRISTENSEN, CHIARA GIOVANDO

DAVID ECKARD, JESSIE SPIESS WERNER, STEPHEN SLAPPE, JESS PERLITZ, DRU DONOVAN, JOHN HOUCK,

Facilities

Studios and Spaces

Visual Studies students work in individual private studios for the entire duration of the 2 year program, including the Summer. Also included are critique and exhibition spaces equipped with projectors as well as a community kitchen, computer workstations, printer and scanner.

Get in touch

Get in touch with Sharita Towne, who oversees the MFA in Visual Studies. stowne@willamette.edu

Email MFA in Visual Studies Coordinator, Jessie Werner, to schedule a tour. jwerner@willamette.edu

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